Estonian food manufacturers look to reduce salt in processed foods

WHO/Joao Breda

Salt reduction seminar in Estonia

WHO/Europe and the Estonian National Health Development Institute held a joint workshop on 8 February 2013 on how to reduce salt and other selected nutrients in processed foods. Bringing together Estonian food manufacturers and public health experts from Estonia, Latvia and Montenegro, the workshop highlighted the importance of salt reduction for public health and the need for further collaboration in this area.

In line with the WHO Action Plan for implementation of the European Strategy for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases 2012–2016, some countries in the European Region have already implemented effective salt reduction strategies. At the workshop, visiting experts from the Netherlands and Switzerland shared examples of successful collaboration between the food industry and the public sector and practical ways to reduce salt in processed foods. Estonian manufacturers also shared their experiences and good practices.

Health impact

“At the international level, salt reduction is recognized as a priority in preventing cardiovascular diseases,” said Marge Reinap, Head of the WHO Country Office, Estonia.

According to Anneli Sammel, Head of the Noncommunicable Disease Prevention Department of the National Institute for Health Development, it is important to reduce high salt consumption based on the scientifically proven evidence of its effect on long-term health, through its association with hypertension and increased risk of cardiovascular diseases and stroke.

“About 80% of our daily intake of salt comes from processed foods such as bread, cheese and sausage. For this reason, it is not enough to reduce the use of salt in cooking and seasoning only. To lower the population’s overall salt consumption, it is necessary to change the entire food manufacturing environment by reducing the use of salt in processed foods," explained Ms Sammel.

Survey of current practice among manufacturers

Before the workshop, a short anonymous survey was carried out to gain an overview of salt reduction developments among Estonian food manufacturers. Of the 30 manufacturers that responded to the survey, 12 reported paying attention to salt reduction in their product development. Manufacturers identified consumer preferences and technological developments in production processes as the main hindrances to the reduction of salt consumption.